Perfect Couple

Page 9


But this was exactly what I hadn't wanted. The more people felt sorry for me, the smaller I felt.
"And then you got the two of them together," Kaye said. "That's so sweet!"
"No," I said. "They both swore me to secrecy. Ms. Chen outed them to each other by mistake." I told Kaye and Tia the boys' story about the Perfect Couple vote. "I'm just glad they're happy."
"So why's Kennedy mad at you?" Tia asked. "Other than the fact that he's always mad at you lately?"
I winced. It was true, but coming from Tia, the truth was especially blunt.
"Sawyer made a joke about me dating gay guys. He said Kennedy must be gay too. Also Brody, since the school thinks we'd be perfect together."
"Oh my God!" Tia yelled with her mouth full. "Why did Sawyer say that? I'll kill him."
"Nobody cares what Sawyer thinks," Kaye said between nibbles. "Sawyer's a pothead."
"Not anymore," Tia corrected her. "He swore it off. He's turned into a health nut since he passed out on Monday."
Kaye tossed her cupcake paper into the trash and placed her fists on her hips, cheerleader style. "Why are you always defending him?"
"Why are you always so down on him?" Tia turned back to me. "And that's all Kennedy's mad about? Sawyer shouldn't have said it, but Kennedy's as used to Sawyer's inappropriate comments as the rest of us. There's no reason for him to be angry unless he was already sensitive about the subject in the first place. Brody's not mad."
"No, Brody's not mad," I acknowledged. "Brody and Noah are best friends, plus Brody's so happy-go-lucky. Brody . . ."
Tia and Kaye stared wide-eyed at me again. Any story including Brody was more delicious than cupcakes. I found myself telling them what Brody had said about me to the football team.
"Oooh, he's into you," Kaye said approvingly. She rubbed her hands together. "Intrigue!"
"Perfect Coupling?" Tia puzzled through Brody's joke. "Like you're a piece of PVC pipe and he's an elbow joint?"
"Yeah, I didn't think it was all that sexy either." Actually, I did, but I couldn't admit this. "I confronted him about it, and he said he blurted it out when the team teased him about the Perfect Couple title. Who'd you vote for?" I'd been wanting to ask them this for a while.
"I voted for you!" Kaye told me triumphantly.
"And Brody?"
"Oh, God, no! You and Evan Fielding. He looks so cute in his plaid hat, like an old man. You're both so retro."
Wearing an old man's hat was the most interesting thing I'd seen Evan do. He was in my journalism class, and when we brainstormed ideas for the yearbook, he never uttered a peep. I'd been partnered with him a couple of times and ended up doing most of the work myself because I'd expected he would let me down . This was the guy one of my best friends thought was my perfect match?
Kaye read the look on my face. "Only because of his hat," she backtracked.
"Why are you curious?" Tia asked me. "You're dying to know why so many people paired you with Brody, aren't you?"
"Nooooo." I tried to brush it off. "I have a boyfriend. Brody has a girlfriend. Being elected together is a big joke between us."
But joke or not, sometime in the next two weeks, we would have to take our yearbook picture together. And during that short interlude, at least on my end, our relationship would be dead serious.
* * *
I wished I could have hung with Kaye and Tia at the football game that night. But Tia stood next to Will in the drum section of the marching band. Kaye was on the sidelines with the other cheerleaders, including Brody's glamorous girlfriend, Grace. I braved the sidelines all by myself to shoot the game.
Though I was a bit unclear on the rules, I'd always enjoyed football games. I loved the band music, the screams of the crowd and the cheerleaders, and the charged atmosphere. And though I feared for my life a couple of times when huge guys in helmets and pads hurtled toward me, the danger seemed worthwhile after I got some great shots of our players.
That is, I got some great shots of Brody. In the third quarter, our defense recovered a fumble and returned the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. I missed the entire thing because I was pretending to take pictures of our team watching from the sidelines. Really, I'd zoomed in on Brody, whose helmet was off. He'd pulled his long, wet hair out of his eyes with a band. And he had no idea he was in my lens. He focused on the action on the field and screamed his heart out for his friends on the defensive line.
In the fourth quarter, Sawyer, dressed as the pelican mascot, came marching jauntily toward me. He picked up his knees and big bird feet high with every step, swinging his feathery elbows. I hoped he hadn't caught me gazing wistfully at Brody. I wasn't sure how well he could see out of the enormous bird head he was wearing. If he'd noticed my moony stare, he would make fun of me for it.
He put his wing around me.
I glared up at him.
He turned his huge head to look at me, too. His fuzz-covered beak hit me in the eye.
"Get your wing off me," I said, moving out from under his arm.
He put his hands on his padded bird hips and stomped his foot like he wanted to know why.

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